Next Student Series Lecture : “Islamic Cultural Presence in Medieval Korea” a lecture to be given by In-Sung Kim Han

Where: Royal Asiatic Society, 14 Stephenson Way, NW1 2HD

When: Wednesday 2nd April, 6.30 pm. The lecture ends with a Q & A session and a drinks reception.

Admission is free and all are welcome to attend.

Long-necked Bottle, Goryeo, 12th/13th century, Celadon ware, Height 38 cm, diameter of mouth 2.6 cm, diameter of base 10 cm, National Museum of Korea (ssu1274), (After Cheonha jaeil Bisaek cheongja[The Best Under Heaven, the Celadons of Korea], Seoul, 2012, p. 169)

This talk is about the Islamic cultural presence on the Korean peninsula in medieval period (8th to first half of 15th century), with partiuclar focus on Korean reception of Islamic material culture.  In defiance of general understanding , Islam and Islamic cultural influence spread beyond China and into the Korean peninsula. Medieval Korean dynasties, especially Goryeo (918-1392), were involved in active interactions with the ‘Western Regions’ and continued it with the Islamic world when the regions became Islamicised. The relationship became more intensified from trade and commerce to co-existence when the Mongol Empire extended their power to the Korean peninsula. Official chronicles, literary texts and even folk songs of the period contain frequent references to Islamic lifestyles and religious practices within the peninsula.  The Royal Edict in 1427, however, decreed  that religious and cultural expressions of Islam be banned, for the purpose of assimilation to the local lifestyles, leading to the disappearence of Islamic cultural expression on the peninsula. Unlike any part of the Islamic world, such cultural markers as grand mosque, magestic Qurans sumptuously embellished with Arabic calligraphy cannot be found in present-day Korea.  But, more ‘neutral’ and universal appeal of Islamic material culture survived and left certain impacts on the Korean cultural repetoire, and its influence can still be retraced.  With several cases of Korean decorative arts in late medieval period (the late Goryeo to early Joseon period), this talk will expore the way how Islamic material culture was received, translated, and adjusted to the Korean taste, and ultimately incorporated into the Korean cultural manifestations. 

About the speaker:

In-Sung , now PhD candidate in the Department of History of Art and Archaeology, SOAS, University of London, has been working as a writer and journalist for Korean magazines, since completing her PhD in English literature in Seoul, Korea in 1991. Her present research is centred on retracing the forgotten history of Muslims in medieval Korea and their cultural legacy on Korean material-cultural repetoire.    

 N.B Due to unforeseen circumstances our other scheduled speaker Dhara. D Anjaria is now unable to address the Society.